As the chart demonstrates, water freight of all types represents a considerable environmental savings compared to road. Ro-ro services allow an easy replacement for HGV operations as they can seamless integrate into road-oriented supply chains. Short sea and coastal bulk and container services more than match the performance rail, and can also work with final road legs.

This assessment is based on the latest Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) conversion factors which establishes the direct greenhouse gas intensity of each mode. Defra publishes annual conversion factors which are updated as more data and evidence becomes available. The figures allow Government to compare the carbon performance of each mode.

The figures are set out below. Each figure is Defra’s average conversion factor for freight services within that group.

Other Modes

Type Total Direct Greenhouse Gas Emissions (kg CO2 equivalent per tonne km)

  • Air (domestic and short haul) 1.73499
  • Vans 0.5907
  • HGVs 0.12631
  • Rail 0.03159


Type Total Direct Greenhouse Gas Emissions (kg CO2 equivalent per tonne km)

  • Bulk carrier (up to 9999 DWT) 0.02943
  • General Cargo 0.01315
  • Deep Sea Container Ship (3000 TEU upwards) 0.01536
  • Short Sea Container Ship (up to 2999 TEU) 0.029703
  • Vehicle Transporter 0.03835
  • Ro-ro ferry 0.05136

Note that Defra provides both direct (burning of fuel) and indirect (well to wheel) emissions factors. FTA uses direct emissions factors to calculate greenhouse gas emissions.

Download the full figures

Logistics Emissions Reduction Scheme

The Logistics Emissions Reduction Scheme (LERS), formerly known as the Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme (LCRS), is a free-to join-industry initiative to record, report and reduce carbon emissions from freight transport.

The scheme is provided by FTA free to the whole logistics industry – join today to see how you can work to reduce emissions and cut fuel costs.

View more information on the LERS website